I recently got a short break from work, so I decided to make the most of it. I made up my mind to visit Mantua in northern Italy. What makes this place stand out is that it is artistic, and there is no denying the fact that Mantua is a cultural hub also.
Now, I was visiting this place for the first time, so I made sure that I try to find out every little detail about this city so that I can make the most of my trip. I will give you a complete walkthrough of my trip so that you can enjoy the same way I enjoyed my trip.
AN OVERVIEW OF THE HISTORY OF MANTUA (MANTOVA)
Mantua is undoubtedly a beautiful city that is located in the far east of Lombardy. Initially, Mantua was conquered by Cenomani. It is a Gallilic tribe. Next, the Romans conquered this city during the first and second Punic war. After some time the Roman Empire fell down, and the city got conquered by Franks, Longobards, and Byzantines. By the 11th century, the city was owned by Boniface of Canossa, marquis of Toscanna. Matilda of Canossa was the last ruler of this family.
Pinamonte Bonacolsi seized power in 1273. Well, his family was lucky enough to rule Mantua for about a century. As a result, the city became artistically beautiful and prosperous. In 1328, a revolt took place, and the House of Gonzaga backed the revolt. As a result, Rinaldo Bonacolsi was thrown back.
Luigi Gonzaga became the people’s captain. Now, the city experienced architectural success during the 14th century. Gonzaga was able to build new walls with five different gates. The city owes its wealth and power to the Gonzaga family. They successfully ruled this city for about four centuries. It was due to their patronage that some of the best writers, musicians, and artists came to this city
The city is famous for yet another reason, and that is due to the ancient citizen of this city poet Publius Vergilius Maro. The poet Virgil was also born nearby this city.
Initially, Mantua was ignored by tourists, but what I feel is that it will not be the case anymore. The reason is that the city got declared as the Italian Capital of Culture in 2016. The best part is that there is so much to see in this city.
THINGS TO SEE IN MANTUA
There is no denying the fact that Palazzo Ducale is one of the most mesmerizing places in Mantua. It is a group of buildings located in Mantua. It was built between the 14th and the 17th century. The noble family of Gonzaga built this palace.
What makes these buildings so stunning is that they are connected by galleries and corridors. You will find vast gardens and inner courts in these corridors and galleries. The exciting part is that Ducale is sprawling. It has about 500 rooms.
The Gonzaga family lived in this palace from 1328 to about 1707. However, there is one thing you need to keep in mind. When you visit this Palace, you will notice the fact that there are signs at the entrance that show that no cameras are allowed in some of the rooms. The route is numbered so you will not have an issue finding your way through the palace. There are QR codes and audio guide numbers, and you will also find the information about that particular stop.
I will suggest that you should not spend a lot of time on the audio guides because they talk more about history rather than the artifact in the room. What we loved about the palace were the frescos, and there is no doubt about the fact that they were terrific. I noticed the fact that some rooms had complete frescos while some of the rooms had incomplete ones. Most of the frescos looked more like the 3d images. The hallmark was the terrazzo floors that were present in most of the rooms.
If you are a fan of the artwork, then you will be happy with the fact that most of the rooms have big art displays also. Ceilings seemed to be ornate. Most of the ceilings had ornamental designs, and some looked more like carved wood.
What I liked was that the windows and the doorways were adorned also.
Now, what I want to discuss here is that the architecture of Palazzo Ducale is quite appealing. It is a symbol of Venetian architecture. The interesting part is that the Palazzo has strong cultural and artistic links to Byzantium. Another aspect worth mentioning is that Ducale also personifies Islamic culture and art through its architectural heritage. Additionally, the Palazzo has gothic influences as well. The pointed arches are a typical feature of the gothic culture.
Another place worth seeing in Mantua is Palazzo Bonacolsi. It is located in front of Palazzo Ducale. Palazzo Bonacolsi looks quite impressive, and it is characterized by the merlons. What makes this palace so exciting is that it is made up of bricks, and it was constructed during the 13th century by Pinamonte Bonacolsi.
What makes Palazzo Bonacolsi so exciting is that it has medieval architecture features. When you look at the parallelpiped tower, then it surely recalls the profile of the ancient city. The pathways symbolize the grandeur of the Palazzo. They are punctuated by the vases of the citrus trees, and that is what makes the pathways eye-catching.
The Palazzo has a beautiful ancient well also that is covered by the false trees. All this makes this Palazzo a treat to watch.
DUOMO OF MANTUA
You will find the Duomo of Mantua in the same square. It is a Roman Catholic Cathedral dedicated to Saint Peter. The exciting thing about this cathedral is that it is an initial structure that existed in the Early Christian Era. However, a fire destroyed the building.
The Church that currently, exists in Mantua was rebuilt in 1395-1401. Now, a Gothic west front has been added. Plus, side chapels have also been added. The building suffered another fire in the 16th century. Guilio Romano ensured that he rebuilt the interior, but luckily he was able to save the frontage.
The Duomo of Mantua is a symbol of Italian Gothic architecture. It has a Baroque style façade that dates back to 1755. Plus, you can also notice the traces of Gothic medieval exterior on the façade.
PALAZZO DEL TE
When you are in Mantua, then you should not miss out on Palazzo del Te also. It is a beautiful palace that is located in the suburbs of Mantua. It showcases the mannerist style of architecture. The Palazzo was constructed between 1524 to 34. The Mannerism style pre-dominated Italy by the end of the High Renaissance period
The Palace was initially constructed for Federico II Gonzaga. It was supposed to be a palace of leisure for Federico. The family stables location was used to construct this Palace. Guilio Romano was assigned the job to construct the palace and Romano designed the palace keeping into consideration Italian High Renaissance Art.
Guilio transformed the stables into a sumptuous residence that took its inspiration from the ancient roman villas.
It took about 18 months to construct the shell of the Palace. It is a square shaped building and has a cloistered courtyard. When the construction of the shell got completed, then about ten years were spent by carvers and painters to decorate the building.
When you are on your way to Palazzo del Te, you will come across Mantegna’s House. It was built in 1476-1502. There is no denying the fact that the design of the Mantegna’s house is revolutionary.
It has an external cube which has a circular atrium that is open to the sky. It has a large front space. It seems that a lot of pain was taken to construct the Mantegna’s House. Harmonic principles were put to use to construct the Mantegna’s House.
Andrea Mantegna, a famous painter, constructed this building. It took Mantegna about 20 years to complete this house. However, he was forced to sell this house in 1502, and he had to sell this house to Franceso Gonzaga.
The Mantegna House had a classical architecture. What makes this House stand out is that it has a cylindrical courtyard. The interior windows have the geometry of a cylinder. The rooms open up to the round courtyard. Initially, the courtyard was covered by a dome that is now lost.
When you look at the Mantegna House, then you can recall the structure of the Roman Domus. What I loved about the courtyard is that you can look up and see the beautiful blue sky because of the absence of the dome. You get this serene feeling when you look at the sky.
The rooms will also catch your attention because they have traces of decoration, and leave the onlooker curious how the décor would have looked when the rooms got constructed.
Palazzo Sebastiano is located near Mantegna House. Well, this is why you should make it a point to visit Palazzo Sebastiano also. The building was constructed between the period of 1506 and 1508. It was one of the favorite residences of Francesco II Gonzaga.
After 1519 Francesco was unable to retain his prime position. Due to this the furnishings and the paintings of this Palazzo were moved to a different location. What sounds so interesting is that building remained forgotten till the 18th century.
The building got restored in the 20th century. When I visited this Palazzo, I felt this calmness within me. The subtle white colored building aroused my curiosity to peep inside the Palazzo. When you have a look at the structure of the Palazzo, you can clearly feel that the structure needs more repairs and restoration to acquire its lost grandeur.
SOME TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS
I will also like to give you some basic information here. If you are visiting these places in a car, then remember that if you find blue lines in the parking area, then this means that the fee needs to be paid.
However, if you see two hammers crossed signal in the parking area, then this means that you do not have to pay any fee at all. I recommend that if you are planning a visit to Mantua, then you should plan your trip on Sundays.
You do not have to pay the parking on Sundays or on special occasions. Now, it is understandable that when you are visiting a place for the first time, then it may become difficult for you to have an exact idea of the locations.
I suggest that you should not waste your time in this case. The best approach is that you should go for a guided tour in this situation. Do some homework, and prepare a checklist of the places that you plan to visit in a day. The benefit of this practice is that you will be able to make the most of your trip and enjoy your time.
If you are looking for an enjoyable trip and want to gain insight into the rich architecture of Mantua, then plan your trip today. You will not regret your choice by any means. The cultural heritage of this beautiful city will leave you mesmerized.